Once upon a time there lived a mother who had two daughters. One was her own child, the other her stepdaughter. She was very fond of her own daughter, but she could not so much as look at her step-daughter without shuddering. The only reason for this was that Marussa, her stepdaughter, was prettier than her own daughter, Holena.
The gentle-hearted Marusa did not know how beautiful she was, and so she could never understand why her mother was always so cross with her, no matter what she did.
She had to take hay to the cow and milk her. She had to do all the housework, tidying up the cottage, cooking, washing, spinning and sewing, and she did all this work alone, while Holena spent the time adorning herself and lazing about. But Marusa liked the work, for she was a patient girl, and even when her stepmother scolded and berated her, she bore it like a lamb.
It was no good, however, for her half sister and stepmother grew crueller and crueller every day, because anyone could see; Marusa was growing prettier and prettier and Holena uglier and uglier.
This happened a long, long time ago, when the cedar, the fir, and the pine still had needles that yellowed and dropped in the autumn instead of staying green all winter.
One day, in those olden times, a hunter went out into the woods to catch something for his tribe. He was the cleverest and bravest hunter of his tribe, but game was scarce, and so he walked and walked. He went farther than any hunter had ever dared to go, until he saw a bog so vast that no beast could have crossed it, no bird could have flown across it, only the frogs would be able to see what was on the other side, and they weren’t telling. The hunter thought to himself: If the animals here can’t cross this bog, what kinds of animals might live on the other side?
The more he thought about it, the more curious he became.e.org/images/stories/tree.gif
By Patrick O’Connor
‘I know a secret and secrets breed paranoia.’ – Simon Holt, The Devouring
THERE were four of them, Tony, Danny, Norbert and Alf, all in their 60s and retired.
The Black Hole
DAN’S on the bus with Valbon heading to the Derbyshire market town of Ashbourne. They’ve taken the bus because they are going to watch the annual Shrovetide football match and parking will be difficult.
The Shrovetide football is played every year on Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday but it’s not proper football, not like Man U or Chelsea.
by Patrick O’Connor
IT was a bustling city centre despite the unseasonally chilly May air and clinging drizzle, with the usual shopping brands swamping both sides of the pedestrianised walkway.
Jet black steel and wooden benches were regularly placed along the route to provide weary shoppers with a momentary respite, waddling gluttonous pigeons in close attention.